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     Volume 5 Issue 106 | August 4, 2006 |

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Rediscovering indigenous colours

Sharier Khan

Artists at the camp

Take the snail shells. Crush them. Refine them till the shells turn into dust. Mix them with water. What do you gets? All white pigment.

Using this idea, you can take the red soil of Dhaka-Mymensingh area. Refine it and you get red pigments. You can use locally grown indigo for making deep blue pigment, dark ash to make black paint, brick dust and different types of vegetables for making different kinds of pigments.

These pigments were the indigenous artists' tools in Bangladesh and India for hundreds of years before modern paints took over and before internationally practiced art-form started to take root. One can use these paints along with natural adhesive processed out of boiling tamarind seeds.

The indigenous paint--making formula is almost a lost technology. May be a few persons across Bangladesh still manufacture such paints. The country's last Pata painter (scroll artist) Shambhu Acharya is one of those persons who makes these paints using traditional methods and use them for painting pata chitra (scroll art). Shambhu's family is maintaining this technology and art form for the last nine generations. This struggling artist from Kalindipara area of Munshiganj district has in recent times drawn enthusiasm and interest of mainstream art lovers and artists thanks to the mission taken by artist Goutam Chakrabarti, Director of Galleri Kaya. Goutam's new artistic mission is to save Shambhu's indigenous artform and artistic technology while he is alive so that Bangladesh keeps its own home grown original artform alive.

Goutam's mission has got a new direction through a four-day art camp at the Jamuna Resort, by the great river Jamuna throughout July 27 to 30. Being popular with artists with his innovative concepts, 13 mainstream artists plus Shambhu Acharya enthusiastically participated in this camp to try out Shambhu's paints and painting technology. The idea of this camp was to fuse mainstream painting techniques with Shambhu's painting materials.

The participants were: Aminul Islam, Quaiyum Chowdhury, Murtaja Baseer, Nitun Kundu, Samarjit Roy Chowdhury, Kalidas Karmakar, Hamiduzzaman Khan, Ranjit Das, Kazi Rakib, Tarun Ghosh, Masuda Kazi, Shahjahan Ahmed Bikash, Nagarbashi Barman and Shambhu Acharya.

"They produced a total of 40 paintings at the camp using Shambhu's paint materials," said Goutam after the camp ended, "these paintings will be exhibited to the public at Galleri Kaya either in October or in December."

At Jamuna Art camp the artist had interesting experience with indigenous paints

The artists had interesting experiences with the indigenous paints. At first Shambhu demonstrated how he prepared the paint-binder or adhesive, out of tamarind seeds. This adhesive is used with fine brick dust on a blank canvas. When the canvas becomes dry and looks faint-pink, it is ready for painting.

Shambhu brought along with him more than 140 jars of paints of 11 different shadesred, black, white, blue, yellow, green, pink, brown etc. He also had eggs standby. Eggs add luminance to all these colours particularly in red, yellow and black.

The artists started off their paintings almost as if they were used to this kind of paints. Murtaja Baseer started painting his canvas outrageously red, Kalidas started stylistically stroking his canvas with yellow, Tarun started with milder colours and so on. Soon the artists looked puzzled. The reason is simple: this paint fixes quickly like poster colour in general, some paints seem too thin and one cannot achieve certain shades using any kind of combination. When the paint dries up, it may look different from what they seemed initially.

At Jamuna Art camp the artist had interesting experience with indigenous paints

"It is taking too much of my time," comments Kalidas who spent a good long time with a particular painting of a woman and a duck. Once he got a grip over the paint, he however quickly painted two canvasses.

Tarun was experimenting textures and though it is difficult, he was enjoying modification of one particular art for a long time.

Senior artist Baseer on the other hand decided to paint his red black and develop a female figure in bright orange textured shade.

Masuda Kazi was drawing birds and one of her first experiment was to mix paper-mache with the paint.

Shambhu, whose traditional art style represent straight-forward layered colouring, incorporated texturising techniques used by mainstream artists. He also used some other mainstream styles in his works at the camp.

Ranjit, Kazi Rakib, Bikash, Nagarbashi and the senior artists started their artworks upon seeing the initial results.

"This camp is no doubt a great success," says Goutam, "each artist made their work with their own style. You can distinguish the artists behind the paintings from a distance. Overall, the experience of the artists helped them master the traditional paints very quickly. The artists typically use water or oil paintings. Shambhu's paints demand painting in two or three layers. Some found the paints too light. Some found fun in painting with light paints."

The camp marked its ending with combined painting on a 30-feet long scroll. For Shambhu this had been a great occasion. His biggest joy is the fact that the country's leading artists have used his paints to make artworks for the very first time.

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